Recent Responses

I have a theory, or at least a concept I wish to propose on the laws of time. It is my belief that time is unalterable, and that the "future" does not exist. I see timeline as a sort of recorder, and we live on the point of recording, the exact present point. It is impossible to go into the future by any means, because there is nothing before the exact present point, merely "unwritten" time, and because time only records in one "direction" at one point in time constantly, it is also impossible to alter previously recorded time. If time travel to the past was possible, the most we'd be able to do is view the past, and not interact with it in anyway, because time does not "rerecord". My question is does my theory on time hold water? I know that time is a man-made concept, but I'd like to know if it's possible my concept of time is plausible.

Peter Lipton April 17, 2006 (changed April 17, 2006) Permalink You won't be suprised to hear that philosophers disagree a lot about the reality of times. Some say that time is a lot like space, and that all times are equally real at all times. On this view, the present is where we happen to be at the moment, but right now the past and the future are also... Read more

What is the philosophical take on the subconscious and who came up with the idea? It seems highly problematic to me in that its existence can never be established because of its very nature. It is rather like positing Pluto to account for wobbles in other known planets' orbits except that Pluto can be demonstrably found! This is different from the unconscious mind which keeps you breathing, etc. which works rather like the programmes running in the background on your PC. No mystery here. And where do dreams enter into this debate? I can't ever recall having had a 'symbolic' dream, just ones dramatising traits and memories I am well aware of. A statement like 'I hated her but I now realise I subconsciously loved her' is surely just hindsight. Knowing and not knowing something at the same time has to be impossible?

Gabriel Segal April 16, 2006 (changed April 16, 2006) Permalink I concur with Richard. The idea of positing the subconscious was first taken seriously by Freud. It was a theoretical posit, posited to explain a large number of phenomena, including slips of the tongue, dreams and a whole variety of psychological conditions such as obsessional neurosis. Freu... Read more

How malleable is meaning? Example: can we take a word that is commonly understood to mean/refer to a specific thing and give it an entirely new meaning (or at least one that, despite its slight similarity is still significantly removed from the original)? Example: referring to a traffic light as 'autistic' (given that it operates in one way, without change) without meaning this metaphorically.

Gabriel Segal April 16, 2006 (changed April 16, 2006) Permalink Or, just following up on Amy's response, maybe the right answer is 'both'. Rather than thinking of the meaning of 'glory' in Humpty's mouth, we might think of what the word meant in Humpty's idiolect and what the word meant in English. Many linguists and philosophers (including Noam Chomksy)... Read more

For any given term or concept, is it possible to formulate a correct definition? Some people claim all definitions are equally valid and subjective. I can't believe this though because if we can't agree on a definition, then you can't transmit your exact meaning to me through words, and the whole idea of communication is shot. How can definitions be rooted in reality and truth?

Gabriel Segal April 16, 2006 (changed April 16, 2006) Permalink I will just talk ab0ut words, but the ideas apply to concepts as well. It is very reasonbale to suppose that a typical word, such as 'apple', has a definite meaning. But then it can't be that all definitions are equally valid, since many will be inconsistent with the truth about what the wor... Read more

For any given term or concept, is it possible to formulate a correct definition? Some people claim all definitions are equally valid and subjective. I can't believe this though because if we can't agree on a definition, then you can't transmit your exact meaning to me through words, and the whole idea of communication is shot. How can definitions be rooted in reality and truth?

Gabriel Segal April 16, 2006 (changed April 16, 2006) Permalink I will just talk ab0ut words, but the ideas apply to concepts as well. It is very reasonbale to suppose that a typical word, such as 'apple', has a definite meaning. But then it can't be that all definitions are equally valid, since many will be inconsistent with the truth about what the wor... Read more

Is global capitalism workable? That is, if capitalism is a system where most of the economic activity is based on self-interest, are the kinds of restricting factors like social welfare, laws, charity and human instincts enough to stop the polarizing of wealth, destruction of the environment and stuff that we see?

Oliver Leaman May 4, 2006 (changed May 4, 2006) Permalink To take a different line, those defending capitalism would argue that despite its inequalities and inefficiencies, it nonetheless produces more overall wealth than any other economic system. There is no reason why that wealth should not subsequently be distributed in fair and sensible ways, provided... Read more

I am a philosophy graduate who has been 'out of the game' for about 3 years now. During this time I have not read much philosophy, and what little I have seems to be forgotten as soon as a couple of days later. I was wondering if any of you might recommend any techniques or reading material that might get me back into the philosophical way of thinking, with a view to renewing my interest and bringing back my intellectual confidence. Thanks.

Joe Cruz April 15, 2006 (changed April 15, 2006) Permalink Philosophy is my profession, but even I find picking up and just reading a piece of philosophy outside of my area of expertise plain difficult. Part of the reason for this, I think, is that philosophy emerges best, for me, at least, in conversation and spirited collaborative reflection. Thus, Joe... Read more

What is the philosophical take on the subconscious and who came up with the idea? It seems highly problematic to me in that its existence can never be established because of its very nature. It is rather like positing Pluto to account for wobbles in other known planets' orbits except that Pluto can be demonstrably found! This is different from the unconscious mind which keeps you breathing, etc. which works rather like the programmes running in the background on your PC. No mystery here. And where do dreams enter into this debate? I can't ever recall having had a 'symbolic' dream, just ones dramatising traits and memories I am well aware of. A statement like 'I hated her but I now realise I subconsciously loved her' is surely just hindsight. Knowing and not knowing something at the same time has to be impossible?

Gabriel Segal April 16, 2006 (changed April 16, 2006) Permalink I concur with Richard. The idea of positing the subconscious was first taken seriously by Freud. It was a theoretical posit, posited to explain a large number of phenomena, including slips of the tongue, dreams and a whole variety of psychological conditions such as obsessional neurosis. Freu... Read more

Why are Picasso paintings so important? How can I appreciate the importance of Picasso paintings? Honestly, when I look at them I think that they are interesting but I never get the impression that they are produced by a genius. If understanding Picasso's paintings (and art in general) needs training (knowing Picasso's life, knowing the context in which the paintings are created, knowing Picasso's intentions, knowing the traditions in painting, etc.) why are they exhibiting art works to the public? Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" is one of the best and most influential articles in the history of analytic philosophy but nobody expects non-philosophers to appreciate its importance. There are no Quine exhibitions. Thanks.

Richard Heck April 15, 2006 (changed April 15, 2006) Permalink I'm no expert on art, just someone who enjoys it, but I certainly would agree with you that Picasso can be hard to understand. Most of his painting (and sculpture) isn't what one would describe as "beautiful", though there are paintings of his that are beautiful: For example, "Child with a Dove"... Read more

Is there anything existing within or beyond the human body/mind that can be called "I"? If so, exactly where is "I" located?

Peter Lipton April 15, 2006 (changed April 15, 2006) Permalink We naturally think of the world as made up of things with properties. Take my black pen: the pen is the thing and being black is the property. But metaphysicians disagree about whether at the end of the day there are things entirely distinct from properties. Some say you need some kind of sub... Read more

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